Devotional Thought of the Day:
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 HCSB
They were stoning Stephen as he called out: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” m 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, n “Lord, do not charge them with this sin!” And saying this, he fell •asleep. Acts 7:59-60 HCSB
45 Why feel hurt by the unjust things people say of you? You would be even worse, if God ever left you. Keep on doing good, and shrug your shoulders.
If the story of St. Josemaria was not known to me, I would consider his words above to be a mere platitude, words of someone who have never been betrayed, never hurt by a good friend, never the subject of gossip and ridicule.
Having read his biographies, I realize that they are written from the place of experience, of having to depend on God’s strength to lift the shoulders, to shrug off the pain, To see the need, the deep spiritual neediness of those who hurt us, rather to draw ourselves in, to protect our own shattered hearts.
It is the same kind of strength that St Stephen showed in Acts, as stones broke the bones as they tried to crush his spirit as well as his body. The same kind of love, inconceivable, overwhelming love that Jesus showed while being crucified.
But how do you and I find the faith, for it is faith, not our own will, and determination that will sustain us in these times of trial, the times where our heart and souls are stretched, where the pain wreaks havoc inside us.
I mean, does God our Father expect us to be saints? Do we all have to go through the traumas and persecution that others experienced? Will you and I have to suffer worse betrayals?
I don’t know, but the lack of persecution isn’t an excuse for a weak faith. Each of us should see a dependence on God, a trust in God nurtured to the point where our confidence in God, our adoration of Him who is present in our lives that any trial is considered far less than the blessing of being His.
Notice that dependence in Stephen as he cries out in faith, “Lord, receive me!” See in in the words of St Josemaria as he points out the hopefully obvious, it is far worse to lose the presence of God in our lives. ( I sometimes think that the obvious has to be etched onto my eyes, lest I forget it!)
In order to do with anything that requires faith, I need to know God is here, that He is present, that He is caring for me, that He will comfort me and be there when I need Him. All this is promised to us in our baptism, as we are united with His death and resurrection (see Romans 6, Colossian 2–3)
It doesn’t matter what is challenging my faith, that is stretching my heart and soul, whether it is something internal, some fear or frustration, or some kind of persecution or harassment, what sustains us, what enables us to endure, is to know Jesus, to hold on to Him, knowing He is holding on to us.
This is how we forgive those who set themselves against us, this is how we ask God to forgive them, how we keep doing good, knowing this…
The Lord is with you!
(P.S. If you have been able to shrug off pain and forgive, and can talk about it, please leave some encouraing words about this… so others can see that God does help us with this! THANKS!)
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 260-262). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.